The 3 Layers That Define Cloud Computing

Sam Bloedow

Uncover the Capabilities of Cloud Technology

If you define cloud computing as those services that are available through a web interface, you have a very basic understanding of cloud. Digging into the three layers of cloud services, however, will uncover the capabilities of cloud technologies that could help your company discover ways to be more agile in how you respond to changing customer needs or market opportunities. The following will expand your cloud computing definition to include Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Software as a Service (SaaS)

This is the layer of the cloud that is familiar to most people. If you go to a web page and login in order to access a tool or service, you are using SaaS. Some SaaS offerings are free, or at least free for a baseline set of services. Businesses utilize SaaS on a subscription basis for multiple functions from HR, accounting and payroll, to sales, marketing and project management. While the core functionality of the application is hosted on the provider’s servers, there are some apps that require you to download software to your PC pr device to extends capabilities such as synchronization with multiple devices.

The benefits of SaaS include easy entry and startup. Most apps allow you to add or subtract users as needed so that you are only paying for what you use. The provider takes care of all software upgrades, support and uptime. Many SaaS applications can be integrated with one another to customize their use. For example, your marketing application could integrate with your prospect database, or your procurement application can integrate with your ERP software.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

If you aren’t a software programmer or web developer you might not think that you will ever have a use for PaaS, but this layer of the cloud is the one that can really address your unique requirements. In a cloud computing definition, PaaS simply means that this is the place where software is developed. You might use this if you need to customize your industry-specific business application, building and testing it in the cloud before deploying to the company. You could also test out a software update in a PaaS environment when there are concerns about how the update will affect your processes, a situation that could occur if you have many customizations. If your company is considering taking your business applications to the cloud, you could use PaaS to build, test and launch.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

The physical components of your infrastructure – hardware, software, storage and network workings – are housed remotely and accessed via the internet when you utilize IaaS. The provider handles tasks like system maintenance, software updates, backup and security. IaaS is good for companies that need to scale up or down quickly, or that experience sudden changes in capacity. Subscriptions and pay-as-you-go arrangements eliminate capital expenses of deploying hardware. A part of PaaS is actually the infrastructure that goes with the platform, so there is some overlap with these two layers of the cloud.

When is Cloud the right choice?

The reason to go to the cloud rests with your company’s unique goals and situation. The choice to go to the cloud should be part of a business discussion, not just a technology discussion. Most companies need help to strategically align technology with their business goals.

Thriveon offers ongoing IT strategy and consulting with outsourced IT services. Download our ebook to see what good IT support looks like. 

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photo credit: Fluffy Cloud via photopin (license)


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